Health system announces region's first proton therapy

Highly specialized, state-of-the-art form of radiation treatment

February 26, 2019

Kansas City, Kan.– The University of Kansas Health System is announcing plans to bring lifesaving proton therapy treatment to cancer patients in Kansas and the surrounding region. The treatment is a highly specialized, state-of-the-art form of radiation treatment, and will be offered through The University of Kansas Cancer Center for both adult and pediatric cancer patients.

“As one of the country’s leading academic medical centers, bringing proton therapy to Kansas City allows us to enhance quality cancer care for everyone in the region, and to offer this care close to home,” said Bob Page, president and chief executive officer of The University of Kansas Health System. Currently, there are 29 proton therapy centers in the United States. There are no centers in Kansas or the surrounding states of Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Arkansas.

“We are tremendously excited about the opportunity to bring proton therapy to Kansas City. This opens a new chapter for cancer care in Kansas and the surrounding region, augmenting the quality care already available through our health system,” said Tammy Peterman, president of Kansas City division and executive vice president, chief operating officer, chief nursing officer for The University of Kansas Health System.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of targeted radiation treatment using protons – rather than x-rays – to attack cancerous tumors, minimizing radiation exposure to healthy organs and surrounding tissue. This personalized care offers opportunities to more precisely target treatment, with fewer short- and long-term side effects, depending on each patient’s unique condition.

The therapy is most often used when precision treatment with less impact to surrounding areas is most critical, including brain, head, spine, neck, liver, prostate and central nervous system cancers as well as pediatric cancers. It also is increasingly being used in liver and esophagus cancers. Research continues to identify the most appropriate use in additional cancers, such as lung and breast. Use of proton therapy is projected to increase 62% by 2027 due to the increase in proton centers, the aging population and more indications for use.

“Our ongoing vision for The University of Kansas Health System is that no one should ever have to leave Kansas City to get the absolute best in health care. This is one more huge step forward. I am incredibly proud of our team,” said Greg Graves, chair of The University of Kansas Health System’s board.

The proton therapy center will be built at the Main Campus of The University of Kansas Health System at 4000 Cambridge Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. The center will be a multimillion-dollar investment, with total amounts being determined as construction, design, equipment and other factors are finalized. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

“Proton therapy treatment is now considered to be one of the most advanced, safe and effective methods to deliver cancer treatment for adult and pediatric patients alike,” said Terance Tsue, MD, vice president and physician-in-chief of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. “As an NCI-designated cancer center, it is our mission to provide our patients with the most comprehensive, technologically advanced treatment options – and proton therapy represents a promising addition to treatment plans our patients can consider.”

“In addition to offering treatment, the new center will offer opportunities to continue research on proton therapy for new and expanded uses in the future,” said Roy Jensen, M.D., director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. The video includes interviews with Bob Page, Tammy Peterman, Dr. Terry Tsue and Dr. Roy Jensen. The video also includes pictures of the proton therapy device.

Region's First Proton Therapy Cancer Treatment Coming to The University of Kansas Health System
If there's a point of pride here it's that we have now earned the right to be spoken in the same sentence as the Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson, Mass General. And rightfully so. The University of Kansas Health System will be the first in the region to provide proton therapy. This type of therapy allows for more pinpointed treatment for cancer patients. Proton therapy is one of the most advanced forms of radiation therapy for cancer patients. But until now, not easy for patients in the Kansas City metro or Midwest region to access. Currently, there are only 29 proton therapy centers nationwide. There are times when patients have to leave Kansas City for some of the most advanced treatments, such as proton. We don't want that to happen. We believe that with this announcement today we can keep even more patients here in Kansas City, closer to home, as they receive care. Proton therapy is a pencil-size beam that differs from regular radiation treatment by killing the cancer without harming nearby healthy tissue. This type of a particle, which is a proton particle, part of the nucleus, is delivered to the patient, and then when it hits the cancer all of its energy is dissipated in killing that cancer. Other types of radiation then go on beyond that cancer and can cause damage in normal tissue. Proton therapy is FDA approved and covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance companies. More important, research has demonstrated its effectiveness with minimal side effects, plus proton therapy has been shown to lower the risk of secondary cancers in patients. In 18-24 months this new technology will be available here for both adult and pediatric patients. Pediatric cancer, we've made incredible progress against this disease. Back in the 1960s maybe 10% of kids survived pediatric cancer, and now it's well over 80%, and depending on the type of cancer it's over 90%. Hospital leaders say bringing proton therapy to the University of Kansas Health System represents a multimillion-dollar commitment to this region, guided by a singular focus. Put the patient in the center of your decision making. Put all your efforts around what's the right thing to do for the patients. Put the technology around it, you put the resources around that. This is just another step in that process. The process of changing how healthcare is delivered today and in the future.

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